Friday, June 30, 2006

Review of the Documentary "Kilowatt Ours" by Jeff Barrie

image courtesy of

"Kilowatt Ours" knocked my socks off. It's a testament to the power of documentaries to get our attention fast. In this simple but extremely effective film, Jeff Barrie documents how coal-mining power companies are exploiting the Southeast, with dangerous health and environmental consequences. And more appalling, he shows how we consumers are blithely supporting the power companies' clandestine activities with our gluttonous, if ignorant, energy consumption.

Jeff Barrie was smart, he started with the most violent scenes - mountaintops exploding into the air, reduced to river-clogging rubble. For every ton of coal removed from the mountains of West Virginia, the 6 million tons of earth and forest above the coal must first be pulverized and dumped into the valleys below. Barrie uses poignant interviews with locals impacted by the disappearing mountains and ravaged landscapes to document the damage.

Coal-fired power plants are bad news all the way around. The Southeast uses more power than any other part of the country. The average Southeast home uses 1100 kilowatt-hours per month; the national average is 850. In the Southeast, 61% of our power is from coal! According to the Department of Energy , the combustion of 1 ton of coal releases more than 5,000 pounds of planet-warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

And in the Southeast, powering one average household requires a ton of coal every 8 weeks!! Seems unreal. But it is real.

Burning coal also releases sulphate particulates into the air, a major air pollutant. As a result, asthma is now the most prevalent chronic illness in children, the #1 cause of school absences. Barrie has several sad and tender scenes of children displaying the arsenal of drugs and inhalers they need to aid their breathing.

"These are some of the drugs I need to help me," says one somber little boy, gesturing to a counter-top covered with medicine bottles.

Another interesting scene in the movie shows Dick Cheney saying that our energy use in the U.S. is so high (and our population is growing so fast) that we will need one new power plant every week for the next 20 years to keep up.

That is a sobering thought.

Then Barrie gets to the solutions. I love this part. He profiles schools, homes, businesses that are cutting back on their energy use with simple measures. Jeff and his wife Heather live in a basement apartment in Nashville. Simply by replacing all their incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs, and buying a used energy-efficient frig for $200, they cut their power usage in half. Then he explains how most or many power companies offer a green-power option. By checking a box on your power bill and paying a small extra amount, you can specify that you want all your power to be drawn from green sources, such as wind and solar. This gives the power company incentive to develop more green sources. I know we have that option in North Carolina. You can learn more about it at NC Green Power. Barrie demonstrates that if we all adopted simple energy saving measures to make our homes more energy efficient, and opted for green power on our power bills, we could get rid of coal-fired power plants altogether. He's pretty convincing. After watching it, we replaced the last of our incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent from Home Depot. They cost more, but they're supposed to last 6 or 7 years. And use only 10% of the energy of incandescent. The light is the same warm glow as incandescent.

Barrie did a great job. His film makes me want to study how he pulled it off - so simple and powerful a statement of problem and easy solution. It's personal, it's factual, and it's absolutely convincing.

Prisoners at the pump

With the current price of gas, I sure am glad I live on a farm and don't have to drive anywhere most days. As far as cars go, there's just nowhere to go, 'cept maybe the swimming hole - and we get a government subsidy on the diesel for our tractors. Still, on the days when we do have to make the 45-mile trek into town, I remember the good old days, when gas was $0.89 a gallon, with a nostalgic sigh. Oh, 2001... it seems like a dream to me now.

The rest of the time, however, I secretly support the high gas prices. Could financial alarm force environmentally-blind Americans to reconsider the casualness with which we hop behind the wheel? Maybe people who don't care about the environment do care about their own pocketbooks. In researching our next book, I've found out that in just one year, the average driver emits about 10,000 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, as well as 300 pounds of carbon monoxide, and close to 10 pounds each of hydrocarbons and NOx. That’s some heavy junk floating around in our air and our lungs! To find out how much your vehicle emits, enter your stats into the EPA’s Tailpipe Talley at

If you didn’t like the results of that test, fortunately there are a number of approaches to changing those stats, even while driving on gasoline. Don’t get me wrong – gas is dirty, no matter how you drive. But a few small changes in your driving habits, from how you drive to when, can have great cumulative effect. If just 10% people used public transportation for their work commute only, it would save 135 million gallons of gas a year – not to mention lots of pennies at the pump. And even in your private car, how you drive makes a huge difference in your environmental impact. A few steps you can take include:

· Don’t warm up your engine before driving. The engine emits the most pollutants when cold, and it heats up faster when driving than idling.

· Combine outings. Even if you have to turn the car on and off at each parking lot, using the car for many errands at once reduces the number of cold starts.

· Drive steadily. The most fuel efficient speed is between 35 and 45 mph. It’s much more efficient to chug along steadily at 45 mph than to race to a stoplight only to slow down, idle, and accelerate again.

· Don’t idle. Leaving the car running for thirty seconds uses just as much gas as it would to restart the engine.

· Maintain your car. A faulty or poorly serviced engine can release up to 10 times the emissions of a well-maintained one. This includes all parts of the car; old tires, for example, impede the car’s movement and decrease its fuel efficiency.

· Share rides. It costs you about 25 cents a mile to drive your car, figuring in all the operating costs as well as fuel. By ridesharing on the daily commute to work, you can save as much as $3,000 a year on gas, insurance, parking, and car maintenance.

· Drive at non-peak times. This is the best way to avoid idling, stop-and-go traffic, and non-fuel-efficient speeds on the road.

If you think all this is insignificant, think again. The amount of gasoline and money wasted by inefficient driving is tremendous, adding up to 753 million gallons of gas per year, or $1,194 per driver in wasted fuel and time. Just think of the catalytic converters you could buy with all that money!

-Sara Kate

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Three Gorges Dam

Earlier this month the cofferdams designed to temporarily hold back the rising waters of the Yangtse River were removed and China's greatest engineering feat, Three Gorges Dam, cut the heart of the dragon. When completely filled in 2008, the reservoir formed by Three Gorges will stretch 412 miles to Chongqing, creating a long, deep, wide and slow moving river that will enable safe, reliable navigation along China's most important waterway, as well as an important hydroelectric resource for the Chinese economy.

Three Gorges Dam, became a reality after nearly 100 years of planning. In 1919 Chinese Premier Sun Yat-sen speculated about the benefits of constructing a modern hydroelectric project on the Yangtze River. By the end of WW II, the first director of the TVA (Tennessee Vally Authority,) David Lilienthal wrote a book, TVA: Democracy on the March later published in China, which is widely considered to be the inspiration for the Yangtse project.

Three Gorges Dam was envisioned to harness the great river or long river, as the Chinese call it, which winds its way 3,900 miles to the East China Sea. The river coils like a mythical dragon through an area that is home to nearly 400 million people. Three Gorges Dam spans the point where the last of three narrows called gorges funnel the annual runoff from the 20,000-foot high Tibetan plateau. Annual floods have, over the last century, caused billions in damage and the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives. Flooding in 1911 killed unknown thousands and again in 1931, took the lives of another 145,000 people, inundating an area the size of New York State, and submerged more than 3 million hectares of farmland, destroying 108 million houses. In the flood of 1935, 142,000 people were killed. As recently as 1998, flooding along the gorges led to 3,656 fatalities, and affected the lives of 290 million people. In that flood, there were more than 5 million houses destroyed and 21.8 million hectares of farmland submerged. The total economic cost of the flood that year was for $30 billion.

When first proposed, the construction was touted by government officials as reminiscent of last century's development of the Tennessee Valley Authority to control flooding in the United States. Three Gorges Dam, which has 26 generators, will produce 85 billion kilowatts of electricity per year, nearly one-ninth of China's present power needs. The control storage of the Three Gorges Dam reservoir is 22.15 billion cubic meters; the flood causeway is 483 meters, with the maximum discharging capacity at 102,500 meters per second, also a record. The two-way, five-step lock is also the most advanced in the world.

When Chinese authorities announced in 1992 that China would begin construction, at last, of Three Gorges Dam they faced considerable resistance from environmental and humanitarian interests around the world. Entire towns were to be displaced by the rising water, thousands of lives uprooted and moved, ancestral ground submerged forever. As recently as the last Presidential elections in the United States, environmentalists voiced caution that the project would result in increased industrialization along the banks of the Yantgse resulting in elevated levels of pollution across one of the world’s most densely populated regions. Recent spectrographic analysis provided by Envisat orbited by the European Space Agency reveal a trend toward increasing levels of nitrogen dioxide, a compound suspected of being a major contributor to global warming. The potential for accelerated NO2 increases is not without concern for environmentalists.

While it would seem that flood mitigation, with its consequent reduction in the loss of life and property, would be a worthwhile commitment, environmentalists point out that such control projects are unlikely to overcome a 100-year event. During the intervening control cycle, populations increase and the memory of past events fades to the point of dangerous disregard and that in such an event more lives could be lost than in all previous floods combined.

Silt accumulation is another disadvantage of large damming construction, the slowing of the river allows greater amounts of silt to settle out of the stream. The Yangtse is one of the world’s most turbulent rivers pouring 960 billion cubic meters of water into the East China Sea annually. The subsequent silt bloom is visible from space and scientists are uncertain what effect the discontinuance of this sedimentary deposit into the East China Sea will have in the long term.

The Three Gorges Dam, while providing great economic and cultural benefit to a growing Chinese economy, at the same time seems to reprise the doubtful contribution of similar undertakings over the last half century of dam building in the United States. Damming projects here have largely failed to provide long-term solutions to soil erosion, flood control or power supply even while they promoted industrial growth and economic gain. Perhaps, in the end, manipulating nature for short-term advantage may prove to be a double-edged sword afterall and not a true dragon slayer.

by Harlan Weikle
Greener Magazine

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth Is the Most Important Movie I've Ever Seen

I was blown away by Al Gore's new movie, An Inconvenient Truth. It's the most important movie I've ever seen. Forget Hillary or John Edwards - if Al Gore runs for president, he's got my vote.

But it's not a political movie. I'm only saying that because Gore truly "gets it." He understands that if we don't stop what we're doing within the next generation, we'll reach a point of no return - the beginning of an inexorable slide into the destruction of our own civilization and all the other species that share the planet with us. There is no other issue that even comes close in importance.

Gore is brilliant. The movie was a perfectly crafted script and performance, the optimum blend of personal journey and science, of frightening predictions and empowerment.

I just hope it's not all preaching to the choir - I hope the Bush supporters (if there are any left) will go see it. I hope those who still say global warming is a "theory" will see it. Most of what he said, I already knew more or less, as a biologist and a science writer - but it still floored me. The movie was by far the most powerful articulation of any issue that I have ever seen.

Gore pointed out many facts that I know to be true. One of those, a fact that my husband Ken tells his biology classes, is about the unwavering conviction of the scientific community. Of 928 published articles in scientific peer-reviewed journals on the subject of global warming, all 928 agreed that global warming is a fact, and is a result of greenhouse gases from our burning of fossil fuels.

But as the result of a propaganda campaign, the popular media are far from such a consensus. Only 43% of popular media stories fully support that global warming is a fact. They have been swayed by an all-out effort from the oil industry to "reposition global warming as a debate." As Gore points out, these are the same tactics perpetrated by the tobacco industry. Both of my own parents died of smoking-related cancer. My mother smoked three packs a day for five decades, and my dad and brothers and I breathed the secondhand smoke day in and day out. Everyone knows now that the tobacco industry suppressed information and deceived the public as long as possible, just as the fossil fuel industries are doing now. Only now the stakes are higher - we are literally talking about eventual extinction of a planet.

Some of the facts that I managed to scribble on the back of my ticket stub (after leaving my note pad in the car):

The ten hottest years in recorded history have all been within the last 14 years. The hottest of all was 2005.

One reason our production of greenhouse gases is increasing so fast is the increase in world population. "It took 10,000 generations for the world's population to reach two billion, and in a 95-year period, it is expected to go from two to nine billion," Gore said. An undisputed fact. See the International Data Base and Population Connection for more on that topic.

Gore pointed out that we in the US are responsible for a huge proportion of the world's troubles with global warming. Of the worldwide emissions that contribute to global warming, 30.3% are generated by the United States - although we have only 5% of the world's population. There are only two industrialized nations in the world that have not ratified the Kyoto treaty to limit greenhouse gas emissions - the United States and Australia. We guzzle fossil fuels because we're wealthy in relation to the rest of the world, and we can afford to. Wealthy, yet oblivious to the consequences of our consumption. We're oblivious because of the conspiracy by the fossil fuel industries and the Bush pro-oil and pro-industry administration to keep us guzzling and ignorant. (This is my point more than Gore's. He said almost nothing about Bush. As I said, it was not a political movie. He was careful to keep it scientific rather than political.)

The most conservative projections are that worldwide temps will increase (on the average) 5 degrees in the next few decades. But that's not evenly distributed around the globe. During that period, the equator will gain one degree, while the poles will heat up by 12 degrees. One reason for that is the loss of ice. Ice reflects 90% of solar radiation back into space. When ice caps melt, the water in their place absorbs 90% of solar radiation that strikes it, heating up accordingly. The polar ice caps are already melting, as are glaciers around the world. The film had footage of dozens of disappearing glaciers - before and after meltoff. If or when half of Greenland melts, and certain pieces of Arctic ice melt that are already well on their way, then sea levels worldwide will rise 20 feet, inundating coastal cities worldwide. For the first time, scientists are finding significant numbers of polar bears who have drowned, unable to find solid ice to stand on.

Yet, it's not hopeless by any means. We still have the power to reduce those emissions with only minor lifestyle choices. It's not like giving up cigarettes altogether. More like cutting back from three packs to one or two packs a day. Can we do it, so we can send our kids into a future that has some promise?

Here are Gore's tips on what we can do to take action and bring about change.

The recommendations are simple, such as using compact fluorescent bulbs in your light fixtures, and turning off TVs etc when not in use. See the movie's web site at for more information. The Union of Concerned Scientists and Natural Resources Defense Council and Environmental Defense have useful web sites on the topic too. The World Wildlife Fund has great suggestions about things we can do at home that make a big difference.

We're going to Home Depot tonight to change out the rest of our bulbs. We can still turn this thing around. But we may be the last generation to have that option.

Friday, June 16, 2006

How to Convert a Lawn to a Native Meadow or Woodland

An All-Native Meadow of Wildlife-Friendly Plants in North Carolina

photo by Sally Kneidel

Before yesterday, I'm not sure I'd ever seen a meadow of all native plants anywhere east of the Mississipppi. But I have now, and it was stunning! I interviewed Beth Henry and Mollie Brugh yesterday, about their conversion of a schoolyard to a native meadow and a native woodland in North Carolina. They've gained some local fame with their successful and lovely landscape restoration projects. I'd like to follow their example in my own bedraggled yard, which is neither lawn nor meadow, but a pathetic mixture of trampled invasives, sparse dehydrated grasses, and bare spots.

We took a tour of the schoolgrounds and Beth's property around her own house, which she also converted from lawn to native meadow and woodland. At both sites, home and school, most plants were selected for the seeds or fruit or nectar they provide for wildlife. Although the schoolyard is impressive, Beth's property at home is even more so, since she was able to follow her own whims entirely, and she has full sun for half of it. So I'm going to focus on that.

I was astonished at how beautiful Beth's meadow is. I expected it to be parched, because NC is hot and dry in summer. But it was lush and green. Being all native plants, they're adapted to this climate and need no watering, no fertilizing, no tending whatsoever. So many flowers! Purple coneflowers, lantana, pagoda dogwood, and many many more. She had passion flowers for frittilary butterflies, native grasses for skippers - she knew which plants are hosts for which caterpillars, which plants provide the best nectar, seeds, and fruit.

Beth has had her home meadow and woodland for 4 years now. She got a lot of her ideas from two books by Sara Stein - Noah's Garden and Planting Noah's Garden - which she said were a tremendous inspiration.

Replacing Lawn with Native Meadow
The first thing to do in converting a lawn, Beth said, is to lay down a thick layer of newspapers all over the lawn, and cover the layer heavily with mulch. She ordered two dumptrucks of mulch for her own yard, but she has a couple of acres. Beth said to leave the mulch-covered newspaper down all summer to kill the grass.

After she removed all the dead grass on her own property, Beth was ready to plant. No tilling or fertilizing needed for native plants. She put in plugs of small already-sprouted seedlings. Very young plants. She said there are a lot of good sources of native seedlings that have been propogated by growers rather than wild-dug. Avoid wild-dug plants, obviously. In North Carolina, she uses these sources: North Carolina Native Plants Society, Meadowbrook Nursery in Marion NC, Northcreek Nursery, Carolina Greenery, Winghaven. By googling "native plants" and then your state name, you should be able to find a native plant society in your own state or a nearby state. By asking around, you may find a seed-swapping group that meets periodically in your area to trade seeds. Your state's native plant society may have a list-serve to help find such a group.

To plant a plug of soil holding a young plant, Beth took a narrow shovel, plunged it into the soil and pushed it forward, creating a slit just wide enought to put in the plug. Then she tamped the soil around it with her foot. She put the plugs about a foot apart, watering them only until they were established. She mixed the species up overall. She started both meadows, at the school and her home, with 6 species of native grasses and 17 species of native wildflowers, planting 3 or so plants of one type together, but not all the plants of one type in the same spot. So her meadow looks like a heterogeneous mixture - a small group of coneflowers here, and another small group of coneflowers over there, with several other types of plants in between.

Planting the Woodland
Beth already had a woodland with native trees at her home, but the ground was covered with English ivy and Japanese honeysuckle - both invasive introduced species that spread aggressively. She had to pull all that out by hand first. Then she just started buying shade-loving native wildflowers and shrubs, and planting them, a few at a time, under the canopy of trees. Now they form a substantial underbrush of native plants with seeds that are edible for wildlife, such as "hearts a'bustin," which has gorgeous hot pink and orange seed pods. And delicate little "rue anemone" and "spring beauty."

Beth said that replacing lawn with woodland is more difficult, although it certainly can be done. The trees will self-establish as "volunteers" - from acorns buried by squirrels or maple seeds blown in on the wind. If you're willing to wait. Or if not, you can buy wildlife-friendly native trees from a local nursery, such as persimmon, dogwood, mulberry, blackgum.

The good thing about an already established woodland is that the weeds are suppressed by the ground cover of dead leaves. When you're making a woodland from lawn, there is no leaf cover, and the weeds, Beth said, are "outrageous." Why not just let the weeds go? Because many of them will be invasive "exotics." In this sense, "exotic" means not native, or introduced from another country.

The National Wildlife Federation has state-by-state listings of native plants that are beneficial to wildlife. Click on the red flower that says "Native Gardening." The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology has lists of bird-friendly trees although they don't appear to all be native trees. By googling "native trees" or "native plants" and your state, you can probably find other lists of native plants and trees that are beneficial to local wildlife.

Ken and I were walking last night, imagining our whole street converted to native meadows and woodlands instead of lawns. Every street a wildlife habitat! Instead of the pointless green lawn after chemically-sustained green lawn....such a pointless and energy-intensive use of space. Could it happen? We can make it happen. Every converted yard sets a precedent, making it easier for others to follow. Seeing Beth's yard was a revelation to me.

For more info about beneficial native landscaping, see my June 12 post, "Lawns Are 5th Largest "Crop" in Terms of Land Use."

Monday, June 12, 2006

Lawns Are 5th Largest "Crop" in Terms of Land Use

photo courtesy of

The Southeast is already baking in the summer heat. The grass in our yard is crispy from the heat and lack of rain. Not that I care about our "grass." It's not grass anyway, it's mostly other plants - plantain, wild violets, oxalis, clover, chickweed - mowed to simulate grass. Upon close inspection, the yard also turns out to be a minefield of chipmunk holes. One area has so many holes that the ground is actually starting to sink, which is fine with me. Maybe if we're lucky, some big and interesting wildlife will move into the hole. But not likely, since I saw Animal Control trolling the neighborhood last week for raccoons and possums to tote away.

I would like to get rid of the grass altogether. I learned just last week that grass is the 5th largest "crop" in the United States, after corn, wheat, soybeans, and hay - in terms of land use. I was surprised to learn that the use of pesticides is 20 times greater per acre in residential yards than on farms!! For what purpose? Most yards don't grow a single thing we use for food or clothing or fiber - they're purely ornamental. The practice of covering our yards with a monoculture of grass and manicured non-native shrubs and flowers is chemical-intensive and energy-intensive and high-maintenance. All the trimmings and clippings and mowings required to keep these non-native plants looking tidy generates 20% of our landfill waste, in spite of recent effort to mulch and recycle yard waste. I was surprised at that. So much yet to learn...

I called Scott's lawn service a couple of weeks ago to find out what they would recommend for our yard - just out of curiousity. The lad who came out was quite nice. Said the standard prescription is herbicides to kill all the non-grass plants, such as those named above, the application of 4 lbs of chemical fertilizer per 1000 sq ft of lawn, insecticides to kill "turf-damaging insects," and GrubEx as needed to kill grubs, which are food for moles. This is per visit. The contract includes 5 or 7 visits per year, depending on whether you get the regular or deluxe version. The latter also includes aeration and seeding.

I thanked him for his visit but declined the services.

I would like to just let our yard go to succession - let it just grow untended for a few years and see what happens. One of my neighbors did that. His lawn is about 6 feet tall now, looks heterogeneous and interesting. But....I realize now that that's not necessarily a good idea, because a lot of the plants that colonize our lawns on their own are not native species. When people plant ornamentals, some of them spread aggressively, and wind up in my yard too. Non-native plants that spread aggressively, whether by seed dispersal or vegetatively, are called "invasive species." The county conservation office told me last week that the plant life in one of our urban nature preserves in Charlotte is 30% introduced or non-native species. None of which were planted there intentionally. Some were dumped there as trash before the area became a nature preserve. But a lot of them were started by seeds dispersed by way of wind or animal droppings.

To landscape a yard in a way that's really eco-friendly, I need to choose native plants, and ideally plants that will also feed local wildlife. Wildlife are adapted to survive on the food and shelter provided by the plants they evolved with. These plants could include native holly, mulberry, persimmon, sunflower, dogwood....

Sara Kate learned in a edible plants workshop she attended that the pre-Columbus indigenous people of this area subsisted mainly on mulberry, persimmon, chestnuts, and walnuts, with lesser amounts of wild greens. Supplemented with some meat on occasion, I suppose. Or not. I don't really know about that.

I'm thinking about planting some native wildflowers. But where can I get native wildflowers without digging them up and removing them from their native habitat? Don't want to do that. Maybe I could collect a few seeds from native flowers, after the flowers have gone to seed. That wouldn't hurt the plants. I could leave some seeds behind. Gonna look into that....

drawing courtesy of NC Botanical Garden at UNC Chapel Hill

Actually just found a good web site about "Landscaping with Native Plants" by googling native plants North Carolina. It lists some nurseries that sell seeds for native plants. I wonder where the seeds come from. I hope they're from propagated plants, so that wild stock are not being depleted of their seeds. One of the nurseries listed is nearby, so I'm gonna check it out....

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Working on an Organic Farm; Book Coming Together

photo courtesy of

The pub date for our next book, about green consumer choices that really matter, has been pushed back to fall of 2007. So suddenly we have more time, which is very nice, as I've been driving myself insane working 14 hours a day. Sara Kate has been working hard on the book too - as her jobs allow - on a unit about the fishing industry. She interviewed a PhD who works for a fish sticks company, who dropped one of the many little gems Sara has discovered about the fisheries world. The scientist told Sara Kate that the workers at her company often pee in the vat where fish sticks are being mixed. Just for the hell of it, because they can.

Sara Kate is working on a unit now about soy products and dairy products. I eat a hell of a lot of soy....but I wish it was local. It's not. I do try to get organic soy products, so I'm not funding companies like Monsanto and Archer Daniels Midland who have already genetically modified most of our soy, corn and cotton crops, and are gearing up to tinker with the rest of our vegetable seed stock. Organic certification is our strongest weapon right now against genetic modification of our food supply.

Sara Kate and Matt are working on an organic farm in the mts of NC - Mountain Harvest Organics. The farm workers are Carl and Julie, the owners, and Mandy and Trapper, the other two hired workers. The farm has 35 clients who get a box of organic veggies and fruits every week, so it's a CSA. (A CSA - for Community Supported Agriculture - is a farm that signs up clients for a yr at a time, for an annual fee. The clients take whatever organic produce the farm has available for any given week.) The farm also sells organic produce at the North Asheville Farmers Market every week, and at the Waynesville Farmers Market.

Alan has done some pieces for the book too. He's written about the longleaf pine community, which used to dominate the Southeastern coastal plain, but has been almost completely replaced by loblolly pine plantations. E.O. Wilson, Harvard biologist and Pulitzer Prize winner, told me in an email last week that at least 90% of the biodiversity in a native forest is lost when the forest is replaced by a pine plantation. Alan did a piece about train travel and bus travel too, for the new book's section on green travel options. Bus travel, as it turns out, is the form of travel least costly in terms of energy use and overall environmental impact. Alan is getting ready to write something for the book about stream restoration - his job at present.

We are still looking for contributors on other topics - anything to do with green travel options, green housing, and eco-friendly diets. If you're interested in writing something for the book, email us at with your idea. You don't have to be an expert. We're interested in ordinary struggles of people trying to make sustainable choices.

"Some of them were dreamers....who were making plans and thinking of the future."
Jackson Browne, After the Deluge